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Escargots baked in mushroom caps

A dinner to celebrate the New Year should be a special one, and include some foods that you don't eat often during the rest of the year. Keep the menu simple , since this is a time to relax and enjoy the last minutes of the year.

This appetizer of escargots baked in mushroom caps with a little garlic butter makes a nice beginning for a meal that might include broiled steaks, wild rice, and a simple green salad. For an elegant ending, serve a selection of fine chocolates or truffles.

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The recipe is easy to prepare and you might want to make a larger quantity of the garlic herb butter and freeze it. It goes well with steamed vegetables and broiled chicken, fish, or meat.

The recipe is from ''Lessons and Recipes From the School of Contemporary Cooking'' by Sherri Zitron (Houghton Mifflin, $19.95), an excellent cookbook with several menus suggested for each month of the year. Escargots in Mushroom Caps 8 tablespoons salted butter, very soft 4 shallots, finely minced 2 cloves garlic, finely minced 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 1/2 teaspoon salt Freshly ground black pepper to taste 4 tablespoons finely grated unseasoned bread crumbs 24 medium-sized mushrooms 24 canned escargots

Combine 6 tablespoons butter with shallots, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper until you have a smooth paste.

Put remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small skillet and heat until hot and foamy. Stir in bread crumbs and saute over medium heat until golden brown. Set aside.

Drain off all liquid from escargots. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.

Snap stems out of mushrooms and wipe caps clean with damp towel. Save stems for soups or stews.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place small amount of butter mixture in bottom of each mushroom cap and top with escargot. Distribute remaining butter evenly and sprinkle bread crumbs on each one.

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Place stuffed mushrooms on lightly buttered baking dish. Bake about 20 minutes or until butter is hot and bubbly and crumbs are lightly toasted. Serves 6 to 8.

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